Work-Life 4/16/2015

Three Common Qualities of Inspiring Leaders by Leslie Juvin-Acker

Coaching leaders and future leaders, I’ve noticed they possess many common characteristics. While the debate as to whether leaders are born or made will rage on for a millenia, I can say that having these common characteristics can make an inspiring leader - whether or not we’re called “Boss”.

While there are many qualities of a great business leader, for the sake of this article, I’ll mention my top three: possessing a willingness to learn and grow, having a desire to create independent teams, and the ability to put our egos aside.

When managers start working with me, they are obviously involved for their own reasons and have their own self-interested questions, like: How can I better manage my people so they quit eating up so much of my time? How do I get people to respect my authority and ideas? How can I get my team to work together and stop complaining?

These questions are natural because they help managers do their own jobs so they don’t get fired. However, as coaching progress continues, I’ve noticed that the questions go from the theme of How can I help myself? to How can I help my people?

The Will To Learn And Grow

Natural leaders, and even those who need a little coaching, are people who possess a willingness to learn and grow. We all come from somewhere. We all are born into this world with ignorance and naivete. Even great business leaders like Richard Branson, who is dyslexic and performed poorly as a student, named his company “Virgin” at the suggestion of an employee because he was new at business.[1] Needless to say, he had to grow and learn to achieve his dreams. What separates those managers who crash and burn and those who thrive is the willingness to take on new ways of thinking and doing things - even if it challenges everything they know to be true.

The reason why a willingness to learn and grow is so important is that it’s vital to adapt to changing demands and business paradigms and create new ones. This type of mental and behavioral agility comes from a place that accepts our present limitations and focuses on ways to expand them.

The Desire To Create An Independent Team

While talking with a veteran HR pro about the subject of leadership she said,

“The ultimate compliment for me as a leader is when I leave for two weeks and nobody even notices that I was gone. It means that I’ve trained my team to do their and others’ jobs so well that they are leaders, too. It’s that need for control and hiding information that dooms many managers.”

The signs that a team is not independent is when all projects stop when the “leader”, or more classically known as the micromanager, isn’t around. If the leader is not communicating and or involved in decision making at all steps, then work stalls and the performance of the whole team slips.

Those of my clients who have successfully gone on to manage stellar teams respect their employees intelligence and skills and guide them towards self-management and decision making instead of micromanaging their every move. Quite simply, leaders have the power to breed new leaders.

Putting The Ego Aside

Many business leaders and managers have a tendency to get caught up in the attention, power, and control that their position affords them. Unfortunately, when out of balance, the need for these things can cause poor communication, micromanagement, distrust, and a plethora of other management woes that destroys any potential for an effective team. 

Let’s face it: we all have weaknesses. Having the self-awareness to acknowledge our weaknesses and deal with them (either by strengthening them or hiring someone who is stronger in the area) involves putting the ego aside in order for the whole team to move forward. Examining our own strengths and weaknesses and taking a global perspective to the meaning of progress is a key element in effective leadership.

Putting our egos aside doesn’t mean not accepting rewards and recognition when they are due. It simply means reframing our perspectives from a place of self-interest to mutual satisfaction so that global needs are met.

Who Leaders Are And Why We Need Them

The lone person on stage in front of hundreds of people talking about goals, and visions, and lofty ideals is a common image many people have about leaders. The truth is, most leaders are imperfect, average, have known more failures than successes, don’t have a billion dollars in the bank, and are no-named nobodies to the vast majority of the world - but we can’t live without their influence. Sure, we can live without them, but we can’t live without their special influence that sparks the desire to learn and grow, inspires people and ideas long after they’re gone, and the vision to see past ourselves and into what really matters.

Questions To Ask:

- Does the phrase, “Do what I say and not as I do,” reflect my management skills? How do I lead by example?
- Do I manipulate people with fear or control or do I get them to think independently to solve a problem?
- How do I positively inspire change in my work environment?
- Who was the best/worst manager I ever had? What was their management style?
- What objectives do I need to meet? How do my employees help me meet my objectives? How can I help them help me?

[1] Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson